Sidewalks

What happens if you slip and fall on a public sidewalk? Who is liable?

In order for the property owner to be liable two things must be true:

1) The sidewalk must have been unreasonably unsafe

2) The property owner must have been aware of the unsafe condition and didn’t take reasonable measures to remedy the situation

Depending on what state you live in, different individuals are responsible for the upkeep of public sidewalks. Some states even consider it the homeowner’s obligation. If a municipality is liable, there are a few rules you should be aware of.

1) There are usually strict time deadlines for making a personal injury claim against a municipality or state. The deadline for notifying the proper department can be as little as 30 days and there is also a shortened deadline for filing a lawsuit. It is important to make sure you are making your claim against the proper governmental entity. Know if it is the state or city’s responsibility for maintaining the grounds on which you fell.

2) There is usually a limit on how much you can recover from the municipality or the state if you win the case. This number can be extremely low, sometimes well under $100,000.

As in all slip and fall cases, it is very important to take pictures and document what happened when you fell. If you fell because the sidewalk was icy and the ice is melted and cleared the next day, it may be hard to prove that the municipality or property owner was negligent. Also take note of issues that have been around for a reasonably long time. For example if there have been multiple pot holes in the sidewalk for months and the city has not fixed them, you will have a stronger case against the city and a better chance of recovering damages.